Vratsa (old parallel form Vratsa) is the largest city in
Northwestern Bulgaria with a population as of 2019 of 51,674 people.
Administrative and economic center of the eponymous municipality of
Vratsa and Vratsa district. It is located about 112 km north of
Sofia, 40 km southeast of Montana.
Located at the foot of the Vratsa Balkans, the city is a starting point for many caves, waterfalls and interesting rock formations. The most famous among them are the Ledenika cave, the Skaklya waterfall and the Vratsata pass.
The Rogozen treasure, which is the largest Thracian treasure, is kept in Vratsa. The Botev Days are held annually in the town, culminating in the rally-fireworks on June 1, held on Hristo Botev Square, as well as the national pilgrimage on June 2 on Okolchitsa Peak.
The motto of Vratsa is "A city like the Balkans - ancient and young". Vratsa is the only city in Bulgaria where since 2017 the movement of carts on the streets within the city is prohibited.
Archaeologists have discovered the presence of people in these places as early as the second millennium BC. The found copper and bronze tools, weapons and jewelry say that since ancient times the local miners and foundries have turned the underground resources of the mine "Plakalnitsa" into tools. With these tools the Thracian tribe of tribals sought the fertility of the plain and the wealth of the mountain. With the weapons forged here, the tribes successfully defended themselves against the invasions of Illyrian and Scythian tribes. It can be assumed that in the Thracian tombs discovered near Vratsa were buried the fallen leaders of the tribes in defense of their lands from the attacks of Philip II or his son Alexander the Great. The rich treasure in the tomb says that a large Thracian settlement flourished here. Even more - it is assumed that Vratsa was the capital of the tribes.
When the Romans came here, they first looked up at the mountain, at the copper mines. And they connected their destiny with this wealth and with the sheer rocks of the gorge by the river Leva, where a Roman mining settlement with a mint for bronze coins arose. To protect this rich region from invaders, the Romans built a strong fortress at Vratsata over the river Leva. Probably the fortress of Valve (Βαλβαί) mentioned by Procopius, which in Latin means "two-winged door", is the same fortress at Vratsa.
As early as around 6000 BC. there was life in the Vratsa lands. The locals were mainly engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding. In a later period they began to engage in pottery. Ceramics with specific inscriptions were found in the village of Gradeshnitsa, which are considered to be one of the oldest in Europe. At the same time, the development of copper ore mining began.
In the period around VI-VII century BC. on the territory of today's Vratsa the tribes began to settle. It is assumed that this is where their capital was. The Tribals were a special and warlike tribe. In 425 BC. defeated the Odrysians, and then even the army of Philip II. In 335 BC. they also fought against Alexander the Great and later became his allies.
It is assumed that from this period dates one of the largest treasures ever discovered in the Bulgarian lands, and the largest Thracian treasure, namely - Rogozen treasure. It was discovered in 1985. It can be assumed that the collection of 165 silver vessels was owned by a local Thracian ruler from the tribal tribe. On some of the vessels are engraved various gift inscriptions, from which we learn the names of various Thracian rulers and the master goldsmiths who made the vessels. The phials have the largest share - a total of 108 in number. This is twice as many as all the phials in museums in Europe.
In the VI-IV century BC. in the vicinity of Vratsa there was a large cultural, economic and political center Saldocela, but in the III century BC. things are changing significantly here. The tribes suffered severe defeats from the Celts, and later in 179 and 168 BC. were ruined by the Germanic tribe Bastarni. In 29 BC. some of the local Thracian rulers became allies of the Romans in order to strengthen their personal power, but this generally weakened the resistance of the tribes and their neighboring tables against the Roman invaders. It was not long before Marc Licinius Crassus succeeded in defeating them, but the coming winter forced him to return to his base in the province of Macedonia, inflicting considerable losses along the way.
The beginning of Roman expansion in these lands began in 28 BC. For a period of nearly 400 years, Vratsa was part of the Roman Empire.
The Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages the town was named Vratitsa. It is an early Slavic form of the diminutive door, door, door, door. This name is an expression of the area itself, representing a narrow mountain pass, similar to a gate. The settlement was important during the Second Bulgarian State. It expanded its territory and became a craft center, with developed commodity-money relations.
According to legends, during the Ottoman invasion, using the natural capabilities of the area and the strong walls of the fortress, Radan Voivoda successfully defended himself for a long time. During the years of Turkish rule, Vratsa was a garrison and roadside settlement, repeatedly devastated and rebuilt. It was first damaged by the Wallachian ruler Mihai Vityaz in 1596, and later (at the beginning of the 19th century), during the reign of Osman Pazvantoglu, the town became an arena of battle between the Vidin feudal lord and the sultan's troops.
In the Ottoman tax register from 1553, kept in the Oriental Department of the National Library "St. St. Cyril and Methodius ”- Sofia, the city is mentioned under the name Uvraj.
Towards the end of the 18th and especially in the 19th century, Vratsa became a major craft, trade and administrative center. Its products (abadjistvo, tannery and goldsmithing) reached Lyon, Vienna, Bucharest and Constantinople. By the middle of the 19th century, the town had 2,500 houses.
All this affects the spiritual life of the city. Temples, schools, beautiful houses are being built. Sophrony of Vratsa worked here. A famous event is the attempt to remove the Greek clergyman Methodius, made by an angry mob in 1824 - one of the attempts to establish a modern Bulgarian church during the Renaissance.
Vratsa was also the center of the third revolutionary district during the April Uprising, with Chief Apostle Stoyan Zaimov. However, an uprising did not break out in the district due to the large number of Ottoman troops concentrated in the region in anticipation of war with Serbia and the cowardice of local committee members.
The city was liberated from Turkish rule on November 9, 1877. Vratsa is the first free city in northwestern Bulgaria.
After the Liberation
After the liberation of the Bulgarian lands from Ottoman rule in 1878, the city of Vratsa became part of the newly established Principality of Bulgaria. It established itself as a significant production center, in which traditional craftsmanship grew into a modern industry for its time. In 1896 an experimental sericulture station was opened in the town - the oldest research institution in Bulgaria in the field of agriculture. It was soon reorganized and grew into a state model silk mill. The quality of the silk produced in Vratsa finds international recognition. In 1903, the first in Bulgaria school of silk weaving and weaving for silk fabrics was established at the Demonstrative Silkworm.
Mito Orozov from Vratsa, on the basis of the traditional for the city cart-iron-making, established in 1883 an enterprise for the production of vehicles - two-wheelers, convertibles, carriages, cars for commercial purposes and sledges. He received a gold medal for his work at the first Bulgarian exhibition in Plovdiv in 1892. Soon Mito Orozov's production became widespread not only in Bulgaria but also on the Balkan Peninsula. Henry Ford was also interested in the models of the self-taught master, who defined him as "a person of European scale, mind and knowledge."
The town of Vratsa and its surroundings have been famous as a wine production center since the Bulgarian Revival. After the establishment of the Principality of Bulgaria in the region there are conditions for intensive development of viticulture. Vratsa wines are also recognized abroad. At the international competition for wines and liqueurs in 1896 in Brussels, Stefan Kraskyov from Vratsa received a special award and diploma.
In the early years of the twentieth century, the city was known for its enduring support for the Progressive Liberal Party.
On September 30, 1923, after a fire in a military warehouse that affected ammunition concealed by the Treaty, a large part of the city burned down. According to some data, 500 houses were set on fire, a large part of the bazaar was destroyed. On October 1, 1923, a month of mourning was declared.
Vratsa suffered from the bombings during the Second World War.
In 1966 Vratsa was affected by a flood. During the May Day Labor Day, the dike of the Mir tailings pond (near the southern end of the village of Zgorigrad) of the lead-zinc mines Plakalnitsa in the Vratsa Balkan broke, as a result of which Zgorigrad and the extreme southwestern neighborhoods with the center of Vratsa were flooded. of 450 000 m³ mass of water, mud, stones, trees with poisonous sediments of heavy metals and cyanides. Officially then, 107 people were reported dead, according to later estimates, more than 500 people were killed, 2,000 people were injured and more than 150 houses were destroyed.
Vratsa after 1990
In 2003, the fertilizer plant "Himko" finally stopped its activities, as well as most of the major pollutants, which dramatically improved the environmental situation in the city. In this new environment, the development of Vratsa as a tourist destination is becoming one of the main priorities of the Municipality of Vratsa.
The town of Vratsa is located at the foot of Vratsa
Mountain. Vratsa is a starting point to the gorge Vratsata and the
Ledenika cave. The city is located 370 m above sea level. The
northernmost residential and industrial districts of the city are at
340 m above sea level, while the southernmost, along the Leva, are
at 400 m above sea level.
Vratsa has beautiful surroundings. To the south are the gray-violet rocks of the Vratsa Mountains, to the north, above the low stone plateau with soft and rounded land forms, Milin Kamak rises, and to the east the low peaks of the Veslets hill alternate.
The climate of Vratsa is moderately continental, formed mainly under the influence of ocean air masses from temperate latitudes, which invade mainly from the west and northwest. The steep slopes of Stara Planina weaken the influence of the Mediterranean cyclones and sometimes create conditions for moderate and strong Fon winds (warm winds descending from the northern mountain slopes). Together with the hills of Veslets and Milin Kamak, preconditions are created for temperature inversions, frequent fogs and prevailing northwest winds. The winter in the city is cold and the summer is hot. The highest average monthly temperature is characterized by July (22.2 ° C), and the lowest - January (-1.9 ° C). The May / June maximum and the February minimum of the precipitation and the influence of Stara Planina are well expressed. The number of days with snow cover is 55. In the Vratsa Mountains this number is significantly higher and the snow cover usually reaches 80 - 100 cm.